What GM’s Want Online

What online tools would make a GM’s life easier?

Work begins in ernest today on 6d6 Fireball’s Adventures writing tool. As work progresses I’m going to document it here, mostly as a way of keeping my own thoughts in line, but also to give others a chance to chip in with their thoughts.

What is the big idea?

There are two basic premises driving this project:

  • GMs love reading adventures, background material, new rules etc
  • GMs want to concentrate on the fun bits of GMing not the drudge work of generating 20 NPCs or mapping the yet another tavern.

So the big idea is a repository of adventures, campaigns and backgrounds that the GM can browse through for FREE and reuse fragments or complete sections from them in their own adventures.

This raise some important questions about the tools we are planning:

  • How do we ensure consistency in styles between different authors so that they can be effectively remixed?
  • How do we ensure that the original authors of material get proper credit when it is reused?
  • How do we fund the server costs etc if we are giving away all the content?

The first two questions point to a simple conclusion: That we need a specific tool for creating the content that allows enough freedom for writers to express themselves but has enough structure so that there is consistency between authors. Created content will not stored as one document but a series of fragments. These fragments might be free text, where the GM can type anything, or a fixed layout such as a Random Monster Table or a NPC’s stat block. This should allow GMs enough room to flex their creative muscles and still keep format and style under control.

Each fragment will have a reference number and be linked to the original author. To include another author’s fragment (e.g. an NPC) in your own adventure, you simply enter the required reference number. This will pull in the fragment as read-only text and a credit to the original author appears underneath it. An automatic Credits page will appear at the start of each adventure that lists all the other authors whose fragments you have used.

The technology to do this is not rocket science but it will place a fair load on our server, way above the demands of a normal website and that costs money. Yet we want this service to be free to use. We haven’t worked out exactly how to do this but we have some ideas.

At the very basic level, a GM might find something they like and cut & paste it into a document on their computer. There is nothing we can do to control this or give credit to the original authors so we will simply accept this is going to happen and move on.

Next up is that GM who uses the Print option on their browser. We plan a special format using CSS for this printing that will include a reasonable number of adverts for own fantasy miniatures and anyone else who cares to pay us. Through CSS we can also ensure that the original authors name is displayed prominently on every page.

Beyond these two basic levels of use and reuse is 6d6 Fireball Membership. Joining will be free and easy (a name, a valid email address and that is it) and members can print or download content without adverts but it costs. What it costs is Karma (or it may be called Kudos or Credits). You gain Karma when someone downloads your material and you spend Karma downloading other people’s content. So those GMs who add the most to the system will get the most out of it.

Not all GMs will want to upload material and wait until they have earned enough Karma before downloading something they want. So we will allow people to buy Karma with hard currency. We only have the vaguest notion of pricing at the moment but the plan is for a download of a large campaign’s worth of material to cost about $10.

To help people find the material they want and to encourage quality, various Top Ten tables will let you know the most downloaded author, the most reused NPC, the highest rated adventure and so on. Plus all the normal tagging, searching and indexing tools you expect to find.

There is a lot to do here so I better get on with it. Tomorrow, I will waffle about: What are the component parts an adventure?

4 comments

  1. Over at Obsidian Portal, we’ve been trying for a few years now to figure out what GMs want online. We’ve learned a lot, not the least of which is that all GMs are different and want different things.

    As to your idea, it’s very ambitious, and there are a lot of challenges. I think your main challenge will be gathering a sufficient amount of content. Obsidian Portal was a lonely place in the early days. Convincing someone to use a web application and generate content for it is actually quite hard.

    Good luck with things, and if you want advice or can think of any way that Obsidian Portal could help out, drop us a line.

  2. Micah – What a great site! I had completely missed it in my search of useful tools. I love the map. Straightaway I zoomed in to Nottingham to see what campaigns are nearby.

    Yes, building content is the biggest issue. Without it the best tool in the world is useless. We have spent the last few months buttering up local GMs we know to write material (or recycle existing material) for the web site. This includes at least one writer who has worked professionally in this area.

    This quality content, plus my own major campaign “Rome” (currently running at 100+ pages so it should give us quantity as well) – will hopefully show what the system can do and act as starting point for people. But I’m under no illusions as to how long it will take to get to critical mass.

    Thanks for the offer off help. I’m sure there are lots of ways we can help each other.

    Chris

  3. Questing GM – That is exactly the sort of thing we are looking for.

    As GMs we all create tons of material that gets used once and then is discarded. 6d6 Fireball’s aims to be the natural home for that material. A sort of recycling centre.

    Chris

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